The Effects of 9/11 on Muslim Americans and Immigrants


(Photo: Marty Lederhandler/AP)

Musa Jabbour

September 11, 2001, changed the United States forever. On that fateful day, four planes were hijacked by Islamic extremists. Two planes collapsed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York; another one crashed against the Pentagon in Washington D.C; one more near a field in Pennsylvania– all took the lives of the passengers in the planes and a great number of civilians in the buildings. America was in a grieving state, and to this day, we still see the effects of this attack.

(Photo: Wang Ying Xinhua/Getty Images)

As a result of the 9/11 incident, there are Americans that assume Muslims to be terrorists.  According to The Guardian’s Mona Eltahawy, “Despite an appearance by Bush at a mosque after 9/11 to show he didn’t hold all Muslims responsible, his administration proceeded to do exactly that: military trials for civilians, secret prisons, the detention of hundreds of Muslim men without charge, the torture and harsh interrogation of detainees and the invasions of two Muslim-majority countries.” Being an immigrant in the U.S is already hard enough, however, those who immigrated from the Middle East have it tougher than others since the attack on 9/11. Take, for example, a tourist from Europe. This person would not be asked half the questions a tourist who appears to be Muslim would regarding their travel plans. Not only do Muslims get treated this way, but anyone born in the Middle East as  Americans fail to recognize that not all Middle Easterners practice Islam. Niala Mohammad writing for The Guardian states that “Unsafe [is] a trigger word commonly used as an excuse by airlines under the pretext of ensuring safety and security post-9/11.” Secondary security screening selection, most commonly known as SSSS,  has been enforced by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) to enhance security in airports. Despite claims that this is a random selection of people, it has been repeatedly shown that a person of Middle Eastern descent is more likely to be subject to this examination than any other travelers of a different origin. Although airlines guarantee their customers that there is no tolerance for discrimination, customers and staff are still acting in fear against those who wear a headscarf boarding a plane.

According to the FBI, “Hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims multiplied by 1,600 percent from 2000 to 2001” as “…dozens of airline passengers perceived to be Arab or Muslim were removed from aircraft.”  Airport security has been an important issue, not only for Congress but also for the citizens of the United States. This is because several Americans fear that another attack, similar to 9/11, might occur again. TSA agents are trained to identify abnormal behavior; however, mistaken judgment can influence a person’s actions and reactions to a situation. When seeing a Muslim-looking person, many Americans are quick to jump to the conclusion of terrorism. Although this does not apply to all Americans, there are still a substantial amount of people that consider this to be true. In fact, there have been reports of more than nine cases in the past 13 months of a passenger being pulled out of his respective flight due to security concerns. When asked about this issue, airlines have not been able to fully elaborate on the topic. This leads many to believe there is a trend going on regarding Muslims boarding a plane. For instance, The Guardian reports that “Khairuldeen Makhzoom, a Berkley student, was removed from his flight after he was heard saying the phrase “inshallah ” in Arabic at the end of a conversation.” On another occasion, a light attendant felt uncomfortable after Hakima Abdulle switched seats with another passenger. In both cases, the flight attendants did not have a concrete reason for the removal of these individuals. After 9/11, numerous flight attendants use their power to act based on what they think of Muslim people and cite the “name of security” as their justification.

Post 9/11, immigration policies have changed drastically. After this terrorist attack, countless strategies came to place regarding immigration from the Middle East. For instance, back in the 2016 presidential race, President Trump claimed that, if he were to be elected, there would be “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Two years after taking office, President Trump established a travel ban that prohibited the entrance of immigrants from Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, North Korea, and Venezuela. On January 31st of this year, President Trump added six more countries to the list: Sudan, Myanmar, Tanzania, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria. Eight out of the thirteen countries listed above are predominantly Muslim nations. President Trump’s reasoning for this travel ban was to establish “new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America” as reported by CNN. However, he neglected to acknowledge that not all citizens of the countries listed above are “islamic terrorists.” Instead of aiming his policies directly towards the governments he is in disagreement with, Trump chooses to target all innocent citizens of these countries, categorizing them as dangerous with no evident proof.  For example, a person with no prior criminal charges nor any affiliation to terrorist cells may meet all the checkpoints created by the Department of Homeland Security, but still might not be able to get into the U.S simply because they were born in a country that is part of the travel ban. Before 9/11, background checks would be enough for a person to get in the U.S. Now, Muslims are paying the price as they are being suspected to be terrorists just because they were born in a certain country

As a nation, we are approaching the 19th Anniversary of this tragic attack on U.S soil. Although 9/11 showed weaknesses in security and opened the eyes of several government officials, it also created a significant division in the country. Even to this day, some people still blame Muslims for the attack. The truth is that Islam does not teach terrorism nor does it encourage it– Muslims were blamed for an attack that was committed by a specific group of people that does not represent the entirety of the Muslim community. Not only has it shaped government policies for the past 19 years, but it has also influenced the lives of both American citizens and new immigrants. As time goes on, there can only be hope that the new generations realize the injustice American citizens have placed on Muslim nations and their citizens.